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Social Emotional and Social Justice Learning in High Schools

Project Dates: 
February 2012 – March 2014
MarYam Hamedani
Contact Email: 
Project Funders: 
NoVo Foundation

While research across multiple fields has identified social emotional learning (SEL) as key to academic success for all students, little is known about what effective, comprehensive SEL practice looks like at the high school level. Further, studies reveal that gaps in educational opportunity experienced by students in high-poverty schools and by students of color can be improved by a focus on SEL. SEL, however, has been called the “missing piece” in accountability-based education policy, and its absence may continue to fuel gaps in opportunity and achievement for disadvantaged students. While current discourse around 21st century skills acknowledges the importance of SEL, more research is needed to understand its effective practice and implementation.

This project examines how three urban, socioeconomically and racially diverse public high schools utilize a comprehensive focus on SEL to produce high levels of academic achievement and engagement among their students. It investigates the ways in which these schools design, implement, and practice successful, school-wide SEL-based strategies. In particular, these schools employ an expanded vision of SEL that includes social responsibility, civic engagement, and social justice as integral to their work. These schools guide students in gaining a greater understanding of themselves, in building healthy relationships with others, and in developing the dispositions and skills to become active, engaged citizens in the broader community and world.

The study will examine both school practices and the outcomes associated with those practices through interviews, observations, and surveys.

• Fenway High School (Boston, MA)
• El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice (New York, NY)
• International School of the Americas (San Antonio, TX)